Memorandum by Civil Society on Political Appointments by State Governments

We, the undersigned, call upon all the 12 newly formed state governments to practice good governance so as to ensure sustainable human development. This includes having State Governments that are clean, efficient, uphold the Rule of Law, and are inclusive of the diverse views and interests of the Rakyat.

We are concerned that previous State Governments had processes and procedures which were unclear and arbitrary. This enabled many abuses of public funds to take place, and left the needs of the Rakyat unfulfilled.

While the long term goal is to reinstate elections at the local government level, in the short term, we state the following.

Being transparent when making political appointments

State Governments have the wide authority and discretion to make political appointments. Besides appointing councillors in local authorities, they may also appoint directors to state corporations and enterprises, members of planning committees, down to village committees in the smallest kampung.

We propose these aspects of good governance to be adopted by the State Governments when making political appointments:

General Principles

1. Political appointees should have these criteria:

Competence – have professional qualifications, be widely experienced in state affairs or are capable of representing the interest of the community
Merit – be widely recognised as having achieved distinction in any particular profession, commerce, public service or other fields of activity.
Integrity – be persons of good repute, honest and ethical.
Equality and Non-Discrimination – uphold human rights principles of non-discrimination and equality.

2. Political appointments should follow these procedures:

Transparency – clear criteria for political appointments should be set out;
Consultation – mechanisms should be put in place to facilitate public participation in the nomination and selection processes of candidates for public office.
Accountability – timely annual reports must be prepared and made available to the public. Regular open-door “meet-the-people” sessions and forums should be held to enable discussions between the appointees and the Rakyat.

3. When viewed in totality, the composition of political appointees should reflect the diversity in the communities.

Appointments of Councillors in Local Authorities

Understanding that amendments to the laws or enactments of new laws to bring back local government elections may be necessary and will take some time, we urge the following:

1. Agenda – all State Governments, especially those of Penang , Selangor, Perak, Kedah and Kelantan, which have committed to local government elections through their manifestos or the People’s Declaration, should declare their road maps for local elections with clear timelines and milestones. Holding local government elections should be prioritised, and carried out by or before 2010.

2. Membership – selecting members of the local authorities should be a participatory process. Membership of local authorities should as far as possible reflect the diversity of interests in society. There shall be representatives from civil society groups without political party affiliations such as professionals, commerce, labour, residential associations, culture and the arts, people with disabilities, environment, women, youth etc. If there are to representatives from political parties in local councils, a proportionate representation for both ruling and opposition parties should be adopted. In addition, no State Assembly representatives and/or their immediate family members shall be appointed as councillors due to conflict of interest. There should be an overall balance of gender and ethnicity in the local authorities.

3. Criteria – members of the local authorities should be local residents. All appointees should have the measures of competence, merit and integrity as outlined above.

4. Appointment procedures – in adhering to the principles of transparency, accountability and open consultation stated above, the following should be noted:

(a) open nomination: each State Government should list and publish its criteria for membership of local authorities. The local residents should be invited to nominate suitable candidates; and
(b) display list of nominees: The names of all nominees should be made public and complete with their curriculum vitae. The public should be able to give views on the nominees to the State Government before public interviews are held.
(c) public interviews: Short-listed candidates should speak at forums open to the public so as to enable interactions with local residents. Public opinions should be taken into consideration by the State Government in making the final decision of appointment.

5. Accountability – councillors should prepare timely annual reports related to their portfolios. These reports should be published and made available to the public in forums to enable discussions. Citizens may petition to the state government for termination of their services of any councillor if found unsatisfactory.

It is our hope that this next round of appointments of local councillors for local authorities will be the last. No modern local governments should function without elected representatives.

This memorandum is endorsed by:

1. All Women’s Action Society (AWAM)
2. Center for Independent Journalism (CIJ)
3. Center for Orang Asli Concerns (COAC)
4. Center for Policy Initiative
5. Child Development Initiative
6. Citizen Think Tank
7. Civil Rights Committee of the Kuala Lumpur and Selangor Chinese Assembly Hall
8. Civil Society Initiative – Parliament
9. Community Development Center (CDC)
10. Council of Churches Malaysia (CCM)
11. Empower
12. Federasi Kaum Tamil Sedunia Malaysia
13. Group of Concerned Citizens
14. Jaringan Rakyat Tertindas (JERIT)
15. Kelab Bell Belia Tamil
16. Labour Resource Center
17. Malaysian Indian Development and Unity Association
18. Malaysia Youth and Student Democratic Movement (DEMA)
19. People’s Parliament
20. Persatuan Alumni PBTUSM Selangor
21. Persatuan Kebajikan Masyarakat dan Sosial India
22. Persatuan Kemajuan Pendidikan Malaysia
23. Persatuan Masyarakat Selangor dan Wilayah Persekutuan (PERMAS)
24. Persatuan Pembaca Tamil Klang
25. Persatuan Sahabat Wanita Selangor
26. Pusat Komunikasi Masysarakat (KOMAS)
27. Sarawak Dayak Iban Association (SADIA)
28. Semparuthi Iyakkam
29. Sisters in Islam
30. Suara Rakyat Malaysia (SUARAM)
31. Women’s Aid Organization (WAO)
32. Writers Alliance for Media Independence (WAMI)
33. Youth for Change (Y4C)

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